Written by Daniel Miller of the Ledger Independent.
The 39th district tournament kicked off in style at the Fieldhouse Monday night.
Following the girls match up, the Mason County Royals faced off against the Bracken County Polar Bears in a close fought game, that had fans on the edge of their seats for the entire duration. The packed Fieldhouse was enthralled in the action from the time the game started, until the time the teams were lined up congratulating one another. This game would decide the fates of both teams seasons, and they knew it. One team would move on to the district championship, and to the regional tournament, the other would go home.
Bracken County’s Cayden Reed put the first points of the game on the board, followed shortly after by Royals’ Riley Mastin. The game stayed within the one to two point range for the entirety of the first half. Both teams were playing well, and were trading buckets back and forth. Mason County got up 10-8 at the end of the first quarter, and were able to stay ahead of the Polar Bears heading into the second half, up by one point, 22-21.
The second quarter ended with a near minute and a half long stare down between Bracken County’s Cayden Reed, and the Royals. Reed was in possession of the ball, and stood still to drain the clock, in hopes of giving the Polar Bears the chance to pull ahead heading into the second half, without giving the Royals time to tie it back up. Bracken County called a time out at 15 seconds, and Blake Reed charged toward the goal when the team returned to the court.
Mason County’s defense was able to stop Reed from scoring, and kept the Royals ahead at the end of the second quarter.
“We expected a close game. Bracken County’s got a great ball team. They fight extremely hard, our guys just continued to battle down the stretch there. I thought Riley Mastin played a great first half, they kinda switched up defenses on us, and kinda kept Terrell in check.” said Royals head coach, Brian Kirk.
Leading one into the second half, the Royals knew they weren’t in the clear, but felt confident that they could pull out a win.
Mason County and Bracken County played once before this season, and the Royals were able to come out on top by two, at the White, Greer, and Maggard Holiday Classic back in December. Both teams have improved since then, but Mason County was still able to pull out a win Monday night.
“We just continued to have our guys locked in, I think the biggest difference tonight from tonight and when we faced them back in December, is the job we did on the ball screens. Phillip Bierely, the adjustment he made there in the second half of the ball screen action, Cayden Reed did a great job there in the first half of getting two feet in the paint, collapsing the defense and finding his guys flashing around the rim and was able to finish, and Phillip came out there in the second half and made a great adjustment, kept the ball in the trap and made their guards throw out and then he sprinted back and recovered.” said Kirk.
Bracken County fought hard in the third quarter, and was able to tie it up heading into the fourth.
With the score 31-31 at the top of the fourth quarter, when the teams hit the court, they were both ready to do whatever it took to pull out a win. Bracken County’s defense was putting the pressure on Mason County’s key shooters. Terrell Henry, Phillip Bierely, and Riley Mastin were holding their own against the bruising Polar Bears defense however, and were able to make shots consistently, and pulled ahead of the Polar Bears to win the game 43-38.
“They’re a scrappy bunch. They’re very active defensively, they get up underneath of you, but to give credit to our guys, they’ve been strong with the basketball. limited amount of turnovers tonight both ways, and our guys made plays down the stretch to find a way to win.” said Kirk.
Monday nights game with the Royals going up against the Polar Bears was a championship game in its own right, the two top teams in the district battling it out to see who gets to move forward, and represent the 39th in the region, and who gets to battle Thursday night for the district trophy. The game could have gone either way at any point during the match up, but the Royals maintained control, and took the challenge head on, and came out the other side with another victory under their belt.
“Come postseason you find a way to win. That’s what’s most important, you survive and advance.”
BRACKEN CO. 8 13 10 7 38
MASON CO. 10 12 9 12 43
Bracken Co. (38) Commodore 7, C. Reed 6, Jefferson 5, B. Reed 18, Norton 2. 3-Pt. FG: 5 (B. Reed 3, Commodore, Jefferson) FT: 3-6. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: none.
Mason Co. (43) Henry 14, Bierley 4, Walton 5, Hamilton 3, Mastin 14, McClanahan 3, Horch 3. 3-Pt. FG: 3 (Hamilton, Mastin, McClanahan) FT: 8-12. Fouls: 11. Fouled out: none.